Galerie Mezzanin

The works of Mandla Reuter are simultaneously as discreet as camouflage and as obtrusive and self-evident as road blocks. This ambiguous material economy suggests Reuter’s concern with spatial functions and their transformation: what controls and represents space, what speeds space up and slows it down, and how flows of information and bodies may be re-routed.

Most literally, Reuter’s blockade pieces confront the art audience and their visual and physical command of the gallery space: a large stone blocks the entrance door to the gallery (Untitled, 2006), or a jungle-like forest of plants taller than a person have been positioned in a staircase (Coppice, 2007), forcing the audience to find new access through back doors and elevators. Access is also the subject in Invitation (2006, in collaboration with Alexander Wolff), in which 500 keys to an empty Warsaw flat were distributed amongst friends, colleagues and complete strangers. This gesture of hospitality literally created an arena where potentials of cohabitation temporarily could be played out. This transformation of a private space into a public one was recently repeated for Pictures (2007), for which Reuter equipped an anonymously furnished flat in a Madrid high-rise with a 35mm film projector. For an audience of art enthusiasts and passers-by, a projectionist showed a movie which was at the time also running in blockbuster theatres in Madrid, while a large backlit display on the building’s façade announced screening times, thereby connecting the interior of the flat-turned-movie theatre with the exterior of the city.

The weak signals emitted from the void of the cinema are a pivotal point in Reuter’s work. The photo series 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (photographs: Jeffrey Kocher, Los Angeles 2006) documents a Hollywood sunset ad absurdum: between the first and the fifth picture, the beautiful red and orange hues of a Los Angeles sunset fade into an uncommunicative black, as if in a Hollywood movie that continued for a second too long. The representation enters into a zone of indifference where the beholder stands face-to-face with collapsed expectations.

In the discussion of how the illusory space of the movie is added to, or projected into, the gallery, light becomes a central metaphor for the status and functionality of space. For example, the elementary binary operation of turning the light switch off and on (The Building, 2004) becomes a decisive operation when the light system of an entire building has been re-connected to one single switch in the gallery space. In this way, Reuter’s work demonstrates how artistic imagination is nothing that exists over and beyond “life”. As Judith Butler put it, imagination is not the opposite of reality; imagination is what is excluded by a construct called reality that thereby defines the limits of the real. In Reuter, the argument seems to be that what is imaginable exists as art; hence you can trip over it or get lost in it. It can also put you up for the night. The apodictic physicality of the works creates intervals in which new forms of duration exist.

Reuter’s work may bring to mind the relocation pieces of the contextual artist Michael Asher, or it may be approached as a kind of pop or appropriation art that has shed its universalism in favour of intervention. Michel de Certeau wrote that space is a practised place; in Reuter’s installations and the social processes they instigate, this truth is taken to an extreme through unexpected practices and perceptions in which the art gallery itself is revealed as a site. Another political aspect in Reuter is that he shows remainders of processes of dematerialization that surround us: even if our subjectivity is networked and spread out over the geography through technology, limits and borderlines remain intact as very real and palpable limits to be confronted in everyday life.


Text for the catalogue of the exhibition Neue Heimat – Berlin Contemporary in the Berlinische Galerie, Berlin, September 2007